Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine authorized for 12-15 age group in Arkansas

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine received FDA authorization for emergency use for individuals aged 12-15 this week, and governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced the shots will be available soon to that age group in Arkansas.

“The Pfizer vaccine is authorized in Arkansas for those ages 12-15,” he said. “It has been approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization, and while it is approved for use, there will still be further guidance provided by ACIP committee…and the CDC.”

Hutchinson said that parents can call the state’s vaccine hotline at 1-800-985-6030 to make an appointment for their 12-15 year old to receive the vaccination.

The authorization is important to help meet the governor’s goal of vaccinating 50 percent of the state’s population in the next 90 days, he said.

Hutchinson said the state is also working toward the Biden administration’s target to vaccinate 70 percent of the US adult population by July 4.

As of Tuesday, Hutchinson said the state has vaccinated about 47.2 percent of its adult population with at least one dose.

Governor announces steering committee for American Rescue Plan funds

Hutchinson also on Tuesday announced he would sign an executive order to establish a new steering committee to oversee the state’s distribution of the American Rescue Plan funds.

The committee will be composed of 14 people, including eight cabinet officials, and three members of the state house of representatives and three members of the state senate.

Senators included on the committee include Bill Sample (R, Hot Springs), Keith Ingram (D, West Memphis), and Ron Caldwell (R, Wynne). House members include Ken Ferguson (D, Pine Bluff), Jeff Wardlaw (R, Hermitage), and Rep Fran Cavenaugh (R, Walnut Ridge).

The committee will be tasked with overseeing approximately 5 billion dollars in federal funds Arkansas will receive as part of the American Rescue Plan, Hutchinson said, including funds for education, cities and counties, DHS, and other needs. The state itself will receive 1.57 billion dollars.

“It is such a unique time, it is important that we proceed through this in a planned fashion,” he said. “That we proceed through it in a coordinated way with our county and city counterparts that are receiving separate funds, and that we coordinate with our different agencies and education that are receiving separate American Rescue Planned funds.

“We have to be methodical about this and not rushed,” he said.

The governor’s Secretary of Finance and Admin Larry Walther will chair the committee, he said.

The governor said the priority for the funds should be capital investments like broadband, and other items that “don’t incur long term spending and indebtedness to the state.”

“Obviously we will have some short term humanitarian needs that will be a part of it as well,” he said.

The governor mentioned investment in cybersecurity infrastructure and upgrading IT systems as other priorities he’d like to see addressed.